• Published 28th Feb 2016
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Someone Still Loves You - brokenimage321



After realizing her dream of earning her cutie mark—in the company of her best friends, no less—Scootaloo’s life should have been on an upward course. Instead, she sees herself on yet another crusade.

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15. Defiance

“So, kiddos,” Soarin’ asked brightly, “What do we want to watch tonight? Auntie Dash and I picked out a whole bunch of movies we know you’ll love!”

Scootaloo swallowed. There was something wrong here, though she wasn’t sure what. Soarin’ was a little too happy—and, if she knew him at all, the only thing that could possibly get him in that good of a mood was if Rainbow had promised him she was going to—

She shook her head. No. Couldn’t think about that.

Rumble, next to her, eyed the stack of movies sitting on the coffee table.

“Got some good ones,” Rainbow volunteered.

Scootaloo looked at her. If Soarin’ was too perky, Rainbow was—well—the opposite. She sat on the couch almost as if the entire room, and everyone in it, was made of glass, and one errant touch would send everything crashing to the floor. Almost like Soarin’ had somehow sucked the life out of her.

“I found The Good, The Bad, And The Derpy,” she continued shakily, “A-and Enter the Dragon Lord, and Pony Express 2—”

Rumble shot Soarin’ a dirty look. He stood and examined the stack of cases on the table, easily as tall as he was. “Ooh,” he said, turning away from the stack. “What about this one—The Waler of Wall Street? I hear it’s really good. Some ponies I know,” he added, staring directly at Soarin’, “really see a lot of themselves in it.”

Scootaloo grabbed his elbow. “Rumble,” she whispered urgently, “What are you—”

“Or how about Schleswig’s List?” Soarin’ piped up. He was still smiling, but his gaze was murderous. “I hear the little kid gets what he deserves in the end.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened. She opened her mouth to speak—

“Princess,” Rainbow squeaked.

All three of them turned to look at her. She sat on the couch, eyes wide and staring, sweat rolling openly down her forehead.

“Princess,” she repeated. “O-of Oz. You kids seen it?”

Scootaloo had seen it forty-seven times. It was one of the few films Mrs. Harbour would let them watch on Sundays.

“No,” Scootaloo said. “Never have.”

She jabbed Rumble in the ribs. He turned to look at her, and saw her expression. He cleared his throat, then turned back to Rainbow. “Me neither. Ma’am,” he added respectfully.

“Good,” Rainbow said through clenched teeth. “I’ll go put it in.”

Rainbow stood and walked to the stack of movies. As she started sorting through them, she lifted her back right leg, then nudged the bowl of popcorn sitting on the floor, full to overflowing, towards Scootaloo. Scootaloo pulled it away from her—then gazed down, hungrily, at the bowl. She stuffed an enormous hoof-full of it in her mouth while no one was looking.


As the manticore on the screen roared, Rainbow flicked off the lights, then sank, uneasily, into the couch. Soarin’ sat next to her, and, in the middle of the rug sat the two kids. The four of them started more-or-less attentively at the screen, watching as the old-timey credits began to roll.

Rainbow, with some difficulty, unclenched her jaw. This night had gone just about as badly as was physically possible, but, at last, they had put in the movie. Short of a house fire, nothing more could go wrong. All she had to do was to wait until Dolores found she had the power to go home all along in those ruby horseshoes of hers, then usher the kids and Soarin’ out the door. She could start picking up the pieces tomorrow.

She stared at the screen—blankly, at first, but then, during Dolores’s “Over the Rainbow” number, she started to smile. It had been a long, long time since she’d sat down and watched this one. She’d forgotten how good it was, despite all the cliches…

As Dolores started to mouth off to Mrs. Gale, Rainbow slowly became aware that Soarin’ was bouncing his hoof. He was starting to get bored.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. He was a big boy. He could deal with it for another hour and a half.

Rainbow tried hard to ignore him. She could tell he was getting more and more impatient, but she was quickly running out of sympathy for him. Tonight wasn’t about him after all, it was about—

At that moment, Soarin’ leaned over and kissed her.

It was a simple kiss, on the corner of her mouth, but he held it for a long moment, in a way that made a tingle run up and down Rainbow’s spine. “Mmmm,” she breathed, a genuine grin spreading across her face.

She wasn’t sure the last time he had kissed her like that. There was some actual tenderness in that kiss of his—

And then, he kissed her again, lower, just on her jawline—and again, lower, on her neck. Rainbow’s guts froze.

“Soarin’—” she began.

But he shifted his weight and pressed up against her, pushing her down onto the couch. His hooves snaked around her waist—low, too low. Rainbow tried to push him away, but Soarin’ just kissed her again, on her collarbone—

“Ahem,” said a voice.

Soarin’ and Rainbow looked up. Both the kids stared back at them, Rumble’s face filled with a dark scowl, Scootaloo with a faint frown.

Rainbow turned to look at Soarin’. He was no longer staring at her—any part of her. He was glaring at Rumble, eyes practically glowing with the heat coming off them.

“Hey, Rum Swizzle,” he said suddenly, his voice dripping acid. “Bug off. This doesn’t concern you.”

Rumble’s eyes went wide. On screen, Dolores said, “Jojo, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Appleoosa anymore.”

“Leave him alone,” Scootaloo said, her voice shaking.

Soarin’ glanced disdainfully at her, then turned back to Rumble. “What’s the deal with the cripple, anyways?” he said. “Charity auction? Lose a bet?”

Rumble’s eyes flashed. “She’s not a cripple,” he spat, getting to his hooves. “Her name is Scootaloo, and she just needs a little help—”

“Oh yeah?” Soarin’ said, sitting up. “And you’re going to give it to her? With the magic healing power of your willy?” he sneered.

Rumble’s brow furrowed in confusion—then his eyes flashed with anger. He stood, and opened his mouth to speak—but, before he could, Scootaloo stepped in front of him.

“C’mon, guys,” she pleaded. “Let’s just watch the movie, alright? It’s a good one. I like it.”

Soarin’ raised an eyebrow. “Never seen it before, huh?” He turned back to Rumble. “Impeccable taste, Rumble,” he said acidly. “You picked yourself a cripple and a liar—”

Rainbow put a hoof on his shoulder. “Soarin’, please—”

“No,” he snarled. “I’m sick of him, sick of his lip, sick of—”

“Of not having someone stroke your ego?” Rumble cut in. “What has it been—fifteen minutes?” He clopped his hooves together, then batted his eyes up at Soarin’. “Golly gee, mister!” he cried. “I’m so glad to meet you! And you’re turned out to be everything I’ve ever dreamed of! You’re so strong, and fast—” his gleeful expression darkened “—and vain, and stuck up, and—”

Soarin’ sucked in a deep, shaky breath. A vein had popped up on his forehead, and, even in the semi-darkness, it pulsed angrily. Scootaloo placed a warning hoof on Rumble’s shoulder. For several seconds, the only sound was the television.

And then, Soarin’ flashed a grin, then turned to Rainbow who stared, silent and wide-eyed, at the scene in front of her.

“Hey, babe,” he said, his voice calm, though he himself still trembled with rage, “Whaddaya say we take a raincheck on that movie? Throw the kids out, have ourselves a little fun…”

Before Rumble could stop himself, he had pulled free of Scootaloo’s grasp.

“What’s wrong, Soarin’?” he heard himself say, “Can’t stand the truth?”

Soarin’ looked over his shoulder at him. “Hey, kid,” Soarin’ said.

His voice was quiet, deathly quiet, but the ice and steel in his tone pierced through Rumble’s heart and nailed him stock-still to the floor.

Before any one of them could react, Soarin’ stood up from the couch. Standing on two legs, he stepped forward, hauled back one leg, and kicked Rumble in the jaw.

The force of the kick sent Rumble cartwheeling into the darkness. Before he had even hit the floor, he was already howling in pain. In seconds, Scootaloo was beside him. Gently, she lifted his head and peeked at his jaw—the wound was dripping blood, and she could see the white of the bone through the gash.

“Sh, sh,” she whispered, as Rumble continued his long, breathless scream, “It’s gonna be alright…”

Even she heard the lie in her voice.

Suddenly, she jerked her head up. Soarin’ stood over the two of them, down on all fours again—and, between his legs, Scootaloo could see Rainbow, still sitting, frozen, on the couch, her mouth opening and closing over and over again.

“You might as well learn this now,” Soarin’ said in that same, icy quiet tone. “Until you make it big, you are nobody. You’re just a little fish in a big pond. I have a million more fans just like you, so I don’t need your lip, hear? I’m not gonna lose sleep over one punk kid who doesn’t buy my t-shirts anymore.”

He looked down at Rumble’s bleeding jaw and smirked. “Actually, at this point,” he said, “It looks like you don’t need your lip anymore either.”

Scootaloo looked up at Soarin’, defiance in her glare, and pulled Rumble close. “You leave us alone,” she said, her voice trembling.

Soarin’s eyes flashed. “And you,” he growled, “Don’t you defend him. He doesn’t deserve it—”

Behind Soarin’, Rainbow finally stood. “Soarin’!” she barked. “Back off!”

Rainbow swooped towards him—but Soarin’, with only a disdainful glance, grabbed her in a headlock, then tossed her aside.

“While I’m at it,” he added, casually as if he had just swatted a fly, “I might as well take care of two of my fans. I mean,” he said, his eyes glittering evilly, “it’s only fair, right?”

Scootaloo’s eyes went wide. She dropped Rumble and scuttled backwards, away from Soarin’, who stalked towards her with all the urgency and inevitability of a glacier grinding down the mountainside.

“And here’s the beauty of it all,” he continued. “No matter what happens next, it’s your word against mine. And no one is gonna take the word of a angsty punk and a homeless filly over a beloved celebrity. And I think we both know Rainbow here isn’t going to say anything, either,” he added, “not while she’s—”

“Hey, Soarin’!”

Soarin’ turned and glanced over his shoulder, just in time to see Rainbow stand on her hind legs. With fire in her eyes and a snarl on her lips, hauled back her leg, and, with a speed and strength that would make a buckball player swoon, slammed her hoof into Soarin’s groin.

Soarin’ sucked in a sharp squeal of a breath and collapsed. Rainbow dropped down onto all fours, then stood, towering over him. Scootaloo looked up at her, then gasped. She ran back to where Rumble lay, then dragged him backwards, away from Rainbow. She’d seen her mad before, of course—but she barely recognized the mare standing over her now.

“Get out of my house,” she said to Soarin’, her voice barely a whisper. “And stay away from my kids. Otherwise, there won’t be anything left of you for the cops to arrest.”

Soarin’, his eyes brimming full of salty tears and fiery rage, opened his mouth to respond.

“Now!” she roared.

Soarin’ stared at her for another long moment before closing his mouth. He clambered to his hooves, and, shooting a glare back over his shoulder, hobbled towards the front door. No one moved until the door had slammed behind him.

Rainbow let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. She looked around urgently. “Are you kids alright?” she asked. “Is everything—”

Her eyes widened. She was alone—alone save for a trail of ugly red drops that led across the floor and into the kitchen.

Rainbow, her mouth suddenly dry, followed the trail into the kitchen. One of her dishtowels had been taken from where it hung on the oven, and the back door swung open in the breeze.

Rainbow slipped outside and froze. There, on her back porch, overlooking the Ponyville valley, stood Rumble. He was whimpering, and his knees were shaking, and her dishtowel, already soaked through with blood, had been tied around his head as a makeshift bandage. Scootaloo was midway through clambering onto his back. When she realized Rainbow was watching them, she turned.

“Go away,” she cried, her voice trembling.

“N-no,” Rainbow said, her voice shaking, too. “I have a first aid kit—and the movie’s still going—I-I can fix, him, and make us a cake after, and—”

Scootaloo’s eyes flashed. “You don’t get it, do you?” she snapped, sliding off of Rumble’s back.

Rainbow shrank back and stared, wide-eyed.

Scootaloo swallowed, and Rainbow noticed, for the first time, that she was crying.

“I came here tonight,” she said, “to give you one more chance. I thought you deserved that much. But now—” a fresh tear rolled down her cheek “—now I can see that you’re never going to change.”

Rainbow’s knees gave out, and she sat down, hard. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening.

“B-but I saved you,” she heard herself stammer. “I scared him off—”

“Shut up,” Scootaloo spat, her voice thick. “Yeah, you saved us—after you ordered a pizza I couldn’t eat. After you let him pick on Rumble all evening. After he—he broke Rumble’s jaw, or whatever. And after—” she snarled “—after he threatened me. When it was just Rumble, you didn’t give a rat’s ass.” She turned around and started to clamber up onto Rumble’s back again.

Rainbow shook her head. This was all a bad dream. She was hallucinating. Soarin’ had spiked her drink at dinner, and she was still sitting on the couch, watching Dolores and Jojo skip down the yellow-brick road.

Scootaloo finally succeeded in climbing up onto Rumble’s back. She turned and saw Rainbow, still just sitting there, her eyes glassy and sightless.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said savagely, turning back to Rumble. “Let’s get you to somepony that gives a damn.”

Rumble nodded, then spread his wings and leapt off the cloud. It took him a few wing-beats to gain his balance, and, even then, it was really more of a glide than a proper flight—but, in moments, they were gone from sight.

Rainbow sat there, on her back porch, for a long, long time.


Soarin’ lay on his couch, an enormous bag of ice in his lap.

That bitch, he thought to himself. He hadn’t done anything wrong—not really. True, he had lost his temper, a little, but he did that every so often. That was part of his reputation, wasn’t it? The kid had insulted his honor—surely, no one was surprised that he had reacted that way, right?

Right. He was innocent—Rainbow was in the wrong here. He had tried to do her a favor, and she had literally kicked him in the balls for it.

He shifted uncomfortably. Well, damn them. Damn all of them. He never dated mares with kids anyways. Too many complications.

He wondered briefly if Surprise would still be awake at this hour. She was quite pretty, though a little too perky for his tastes—but you couldn’t have everything, after all. And, though he was a little sore for proper fun, there were other things they could do together—and, after what had happened tonight, he deserved a little stress relief.


Rumble giggled. Fluttershy frowned at him, then turned back to what she was doing.

Everything was a little fuzzy after Soarin’ had tickled him under the chin. He had given Scootaloo a ride to Fluttershy’s, because she said so. And then Fluttershy had made him swallow something that tasted bad but felt so goooooooood.

And now Fluttershy was poking him in the chin with something, over and over and over. It felt like a little tickle. She had told Scootaloo that he had a mhmnhnmnunm, and that he was going to need a opogobqoqo—or, at least, that’s what it sounded like.

He looked at Scootaloo and giggled again. She looked sad. He thought he knew why—but he couldn’t remember, exactly. Something her mommy had done. He thought he was sad too, but he couldn’t remember why, either.

Suddenly, one side of Rumble’s face went cold. Fluttershy had put ice on his face. She said something so Scootaloo—”fttfj kxxky”—and Scootaloo nodded.

He briefly wondered where all the pretty rainbow butterflies had come from.


Scootaloo felt like she was about to throw up.

Fluttershy had let her sleep in the living room with Rumble. She had laid Rumble down on the couch, then rolled out a sleeping bag on the rug for Scootaloo, and Scootaloo had slithered miserably into it. As much as she liked Fluttershy, she couldn’t stand her house. It smelled like flowers—but also of dirt and animal urine, with an uncomfortable whiff of magic that she could never quite get used to.

But Fluttershy had been their only option. She didn’t want to take Rumble back to Thunderlane’s—not like this—and she, a little homeless filly, just like Soarin’ had said, didn’t have the bits to take him to the hospital. But Fluttershy would help them, she knew. And best of all, she hadn’t asked questions—she’d seen the two of them standing on her porch, invited them inside, made Discord go fetch her medical bag, and then made him promise to leave them alone, all with barely a word to the two of them (Discord had sulked for a half-hour before poofing off to Celestia-knows-where).

Fluttershy had given Rumble something to dull the pain, then stitched his wound shut. As she did, Scootaloo got the strange impression that Fluttershy somehow knew what had happened tonight—even without either of them saying anything.

Scootaloo bit her lip. If she knew what had happened, then she knew it was all her fault.

It was, no matter what anyone said. She had almost hoped that Rainbow really had changed, that things really would be different--so she had ignored her gut and gone along with it. And it was her who asked Rumble to come along with her on her doomed visit to Rainbow’s house—to trap the two of them on a cloud miles above ground. She had put them both in a dangerous situation, with dangerous people… and she’d had the gall to be surprised when it had all fallen apart.

She squeezed her eyes shut, and felt tears begin to run down her face. She wanted this all to be over. Her life was one endless, sick, melodramatic mire of betrayal, bruises, and bad blood, and she hated it. She was tired of being tired, worn down by the weight of responsibility and regret. All she wanted was to go back home—not to Rarity’s, sure as hell not to Rainbow’s, but home home—back to Mrs. Harbour, the mare who loved her, and hugged her, and kept her safe, and made pancakes whenever she asked. She wanted to be a little filly again, and have someone to hold her by the fire, and read her stories, and...

And then there was Rumble. Last month, she had been so angry with him, she literally wouldn’t have thought twice if she never saw him again. But, a few days later, she had noticed she was feeling lonely—even more so than usual—and even Rarity’s gentle questioning about her day grated on her nerves. And, when she’d finally started talking to him again, it was just the opposite: she was happy, even if she was doing stuff that would drive her up the wall—schoolwork was almost a breeze, in fact, at least as long as she could see Rumble sitting there out of the corner of her eye.

Though it was nice to have a friend she felt so good around, she wanted everything to be simple again. She wanted to have a shoulder to cry on, a friend to talk to, someone to look forward to seeing when she woke up in the morning—but she didn’t want to feel this way about it all. She wanted Rumble to be one of the gang, like Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom. She didn’t want him to be—to be—well, to be whatever he was now. She wished—

“You’re pretty.”

“Huh?”

Scootaloo opened her eyes. Rumble was lying on his side, watching her. His chin was bound up with gauze, and Fluttershy had tied on a thick icepack, too. Scootaloo knew what was under the bandages—an ugly scar, tied shut with thick black thread, still crusted with dried blood.

“You’re preeeety,” he repeated, slurring his words a bit. “Your face is nice. I wanna smooch it.”

Scootaloo felt herself blush. “Rumble, do you—do you remember what happened tonight?”

He nodded eagerly. “You asked me to the dance, then Uncle Soarin’ tickled me under the chin, and then we went to visit Fluttershy for ice cream.” A shadow of doubt flashed across his face. “But ice cream doesn’t hurt, most of the time…”

Scootaloo sighed. With… whatever Fluttershy had given him, she was almost surprised that he remembered his own name.

But…

She swallowed nervously. Even then, she had to know.

She took a deep, trembling breath. “So… you don’t hate me?” she asked.

He frowned. “Why would I hate you?”

She scoffed, then threw herself back down on the floor. “Why would you hate me?” she repeated. “Because I made you do it. I brought you up there. And I made Soarin’—” she gulped “—tickle you. And,” she added, “made sure you’re gonna have a wicked scar and the hangover of your life tomorrow.”

She rolled over to face away from him. “Bet you won’t remember a thing,” she said, “and yet—I wouldn’t blame you if you never spoke to me again.”

Everything was quiet for another long moment. Scootaloo sighed, then closed her eyes again.

“Why would I do that?” Rumble said. “I love you.”

Scootaloo pricked up her ears. “Still?” she asked, before she could stop herself.

“Uh huh,” he said. “I like talking to you, and you’re funny, and you’re pretty, and you’re my bestestest friend.”

Scootaloo rolled over, and saw him staring at her again—but this time, he had a big, goofy grin on his face.

“More than Button?” she asked.

He furrowed his brow—then nodded. “Button is my best friend. But you—you’re my best-est-est-estfriend.” He smiled. “ ‘S different,” he said triumphantly.

Scootaloo couldn’t help herself. She wriggled out of her bag, shook herself off, then tiptoed over to where Rumble lay. She bent down and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you, too,” she said.

He smiled wide, then giggled again. “I know,” he said.

He lay his head back and stared at the ceiling. “You know,” he said suddenly, “I think I like Mama Rainbow, too.”

Scootaloo froze. “What?” she gasped.

He nodded. “She was nice,” he said. “She bought us pizza, and gave us a movie. Even if the Tooth Fairy was mean, Mama Dashie didn’t do it. She stood up to him. She did.” He snuggled deeper into his blanket. “We should visit again,” he said, dreamily.

Scootaloo swallowed. “Maybe some other time,” she said hesitantly.

“Other time,” he repeated, smiling. “Whenever you say, Louise.”

Despite herself, Scootaloo cracked a smile. She leaned down and, gently, kissed him on the lips.

“Goodnight, Rumble,” she said, with a tenderness that surprised even her.

“Goodnight,” he replied with a giggle.

Scootaloo rolled her eyes, then walked back to her bag. She snuggled down in it again, then sighed. It took her several minutes to realize that she felt warm—both inside and out.

She smiled, then closed her eyes. Try as she might, she couldn’t push all the worries away. Tomorrow, she would have to explain to Rumble why they were at Fluttershy’s, and what he was doing with bandages around his head. And she still had to deal with Rainbow and whatever sort of bonding she was going to insist on next.

But, knowing that, through all of it, Rumble was going to be right by her side…

Well. That made things just a little bit easier.


Rainbow’s house looked like it had been hit by a hurricane.

White pillow-feathers drifted slowly through the air. Broken glass and porcelain lay scattered across the carpet. The hollow shell of the shattered TV spat sparks onto the carpet. Sounds of breaking glass and splintering wood came from the back rooms, where the storm herself was having her way.

Rainbow Dash stomped back into the dining room. To say she was a mess would be a criminal understatement; her mane was everywhere, her wingfeathers were now messy and ragged, and her face was twisted in a mask of white-hot rage and bottomless sorrow.

Rainbow grabbed one of the chairs from around the big table, then, with a roar, hurled it end-over-end into the living room, where it shattered to splinters on the rug. But Rainbow wasn’t watching: she swept the now-cold pizza onto the floor, along with the plates, tablecloth, and everything else, then kicked the table over. She screamed to the empty house, then stomped into the living room. She kicked the coffee table on which stood the tower of movies, sending them flying everywhere, then grabbed a lamp off the end-table and hurled it against the wall, where it smashed into a million pieces.

And suddenly, in the midst of the chaos, Princess Cadance appeared.

She carefully opened the front door, then poked her head in. She watched in silence as Rainbow continued to destroy her own home, and made careful note of the tears running down her face—fresh tears running over dried tracks. She stepped inside, quietly closed the door behind her, then stood, waiting for Rainbow to notice her.

It didn’t take long. Rainbow flipped the couch, sending cushions everywhere, then turned and looked for something else to break before she saw the Princess of Love standing in her entryway.

“You,” Rainbow snarled, then charged forward. “This is all your fault!”

Cadance sighed. She had half-expected this reaction—but hadn’t expected such fury.

“No, Rainbow,” she said quietly. “It’s not—”

“It was your idea,” Rainbow spat, shoving an accusing hoof in Cadence's face.

“No, it wasn’t,” she said, in the same quiet tone. “You asked me if it was a good idea, and I said—”

“Shut up,” Rainbow roared. “It’s all the same.” She turned and stomped away. “Now she’s never gonna want to see me again. And I dumped my coltfriend. Thanks a lot,” she spat.

“I know,” Cadance said, following her. “I was watching.”

Rainbow spun to face her. “You were—” she spluttered.

Cadance nodded gravely. “Out the window, on a cloud,” she said.

Rainbow stared blankly at her, then launched herself into the air. “And you let it happen?!” she screeched, hovering at Cadance’s eye level.

Cadance didn’t flinch. “I told you, Rainbow Dash,” she said wearily, “I can’t interfere, or else—”

“Then why are you even here?” she spat. “If you’re not going to stick your nose in things, then why even give me advice? Honestly, for all the good it did, you should take your advice and shove it up—”

Cadance’s eyes hardened. “Rainbow Dash,” she roared. Rainbow jerked backwards and hovered there, in the middle of the room, silent and eyes wide.

Cadance was quiet for just a moment. Then, she cleared her throat demurely and began again, quieter. “I gave you advice,” she said carefully, “because, though I can’t help you, I want you to know…” She hesitated, then took a deep breath. “Because, Rainbow, I want you to know—” she swallowed “—that you’re not alone.”

Rainbow’s mouth fell open. For a heartbeat or two, all was still—then, Rainbow’s eyes began to fill with tears. She sobbed, once, then dived towards Cadance and wrapped her arms around her neck. Cadance took a startled half-step backward, then reached up and pulled Rainbow close with one arm.

“I-I tried,” Rainbow blubbered, “I tried so hard. I w-wanted it to be perfect, a-and then it all went wrong—”

“Shh, shh,” Cadance murmured. “It’s alright… it’s going to be okay...”

Cadance closed her eyes as Rainbow wept. If Rainbow was any other pony, she’d know exactly what to do: most ponies she worked with just needed a pat on the back, a few encouraging words, a cup of cocoa and a good nap. But Rainbow was different—she’d had a hard life, harder, even than her friends knew. And her demons couldn’t be exorcised with a kiss and some chocolate, she knew that much. But, as much as Cadance hated to admit it, she was best at chocolate and kisses.

So, with Rainbow still clutched against her like a weeping child, Cadance threw her mind back, racking her brain for an answer. And, after a moment’s thought, she grinned wickedly.

“I know what’ll fix you up,” Cadance said soothingly. “Let's head down to Nightcap’s, order you something nice and fruity, and get you fucked. Up. Whaddaya say?”

Despite herself, Rainbow looked up at Cadance. “You know how to party?” she whimpered.

“Oh, please,” Cadance said, with a mighty roll of her eyes. “I was the president of my sorority.”

Rainbow sniffled, then glanced at Cadence's swelling abdomen. “And… the baby?”

Cadance shrugged. “I can just fill up on rum and cokes. Hold the rum, of course.”

Rainbow laughed, a weak, pathetic, yet still somehow genuine laugh. The sound made Cadance smile. “That sounds… fun,” Rainbow admitted.

Rainbow closed her eyes and snuggled into Cadance’s chest again—and, with her eyes closed, suddenly realized that Princess Cadance, in some strange way, reminded her of her mother. Though Rainbow was a full-grown mare, Cadance was big enough to hold her just like her Mom had, back when she was a little filly. And she was soft, and warm, and snuggly… not to mention pink...

As the thought wafted through Rainbow’s brain, she suddenly became aware that the two of them were moving. Cadance was walking the towards the front door.

“So,” Cadance was saying, “let’s get going. Are you more of a mojito mare, or do you prefer margaritas...?”

“Actually, um…” Rainbow swallowed. “Could we… stay? Here?”

Cadance stopped walking. When Rainbow peeked up at her, she was staring back with a mix of surprise and concern.

Rainbow swallowed. “I… I don’t want to be alone tonight,” she said.

Cadance hesitated. “Drinks might help,” she suggested half-heartedly.

Rainbow took a deep breath. “I’m not sure I want to forget,” she admitted. She snuggled a little deeper into Cadance “And, this is… nice,” she added.

For a long moment, Cadance said nothing. Then, Rainbow felt her swallow.

“What would you like, then?” she asked quietly. “Would you like me to get you some warm milk? Read you something? Tuck you in? Or—or maybe, would you just like me to hold you a little longer?”

Rainbow nodded against her. “Sleep,” she murmured. “Sleep sounds good.”

Cadance hesitated another moment, then, slowly, she turned, and headed back deeper into the house. After a few steps, she began to hum—a lullaby, an old one, one that Rainbow had known, once upon a time. As they walked, Rainbow felt the music sink deep into her soul, the rumble of Cadance’s chest gently nudging her towards sleep.

Cadance had never been in Rainbow’s home before, but it wasn’t large; it took just a few moments of exploration to find the master bedroom. She stepped over the threshold, then crept towards the bed, carefully stepping over piles of old magazines, takeout boxes, and piles of dirty clothes. She carried Rainbow to her bed, swept it clean of crumbs with one of her wings, then laid Rainbow gently down—to her surprise, she was already half-asleep—and, with her magic, pulled the blankets up to her chin. She sat down gently on the side of the bed and began to rub Rainbow’s back, still humming her song.

Eventually, her humming stopped, the sound fading into the quiet of the night. Cadance pulled her hoof back into her lap. For a long moment, she said nothing.

“You know, Rainbow Dash,” she said quietly, “I’m proud of you.”

Rainbow, not yet entirely unconscious, stirred.

“You were very brave tonight,” Cadance continued. “You opened yourself up. Let yourself be vulnerable. Once, you wouldn’t have done that. Once, you would have pushed them away. But not tonight. And…” she swallowed. “And I think you did very well, all things considered. True,” she added, wincing slightly, “the results were… unfortunate, but it was a step.” She smiled a little. “Keep it up, and it’ll work out. I know it will. ”

Cadance watched her, carefully lying still under the covers, then smiled. She stood, bent down, draped a protective wing over her, and kissed her on the cheek.

“I’ll go ahead and clean up a little,” she said, “then go I’ll lie down on the couch. Just in case you need something.”

Cadance walked from the room, but paused on the threshold. She turned and looked back over her shoulder at Rainbow, and smiled. She stepped through the door and closed it behind her.

For a long time, Rainbow laid there on the edge of sleep, listening to the cool autumn night. Just before she nodded off, she smiled.

True, tonight had been an unmitigated disaster. One for the record books. It was going to suck being alone again, but, truth be told, ever since she’d found Scootaloo, she’d been missing Soarin’ less and less. And, if we was going to act that way, well—he could just die in a fire, for all she cared. No great loss, in the end.

But Cadance was right: it was going to work out. It had to. She was motherfucking Rainbow Dash. She had broken the sound barrier under her own power, she’d fought her way onto the Wonderbolts, fought evil gods—twice—hell, she had even kicked a dragon in the face and lived to tell the tale. She could do this. She could. She could, and she would.

And, with that thought at the front of her mind, Rainbow Dash finally slept.

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